Secrets to Great (Guilt-Free) Grilled Cheese


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  60 comments   :  59,978 Views

Forget the cellophane-wrapped cheese slices and spongy white bread! It's time for a grown-up grilled cheese! Even if you're tracking calories and eating healthier meals, there's still room for this comfort food.

So how can you guarantee that this classic sandwich turns out just as good as you'd imagine? Follow these tips:
  • Use good bread. Choose bakery bread, one that's firm not spongy. This isn't a time for a pita, sandwich thin, or flatbread, which won't grill as easily. Whole-wheat is best; avoid seeded whole-grain breads--the nuts and seeds can sometimes burn.
  • Use shredded cheese, which melts more evenly. A little bit goes a long way--use about an ounce. Grate it yourself for even better results.
  • Coat the bread evenly with nonstick spray or butter--just a little won't add many calories, but it will taste amazing. One teaspoon of room-temperature butter should be enough to coat both sides of bread, for 34 calories. (Don't use margarine; it's more likely to burn.)
  • Keep heat medium-low. Start out on high and you'll end up with burned bread and cold cheese.
  • Use a nonstick skillet so the cheese doesn't stick to the pan. You also won't have to use as much fat, which is not only healthier but can prevent a soggy sandwich.
  • Choose gooey cheese--mozzarella, jack, provolone, cheddar, and fontina are all great grilling cheeses. Hard cheeses like Parmesan and Asiago and creamy cheeses like goat and feta don't melt as well.
  • Cook 2 minutes per side, then cover until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts. Covering it helps the cheese melt before the bread burns.
A traditional diner grilled cheese can have 900 calories and 46 grams of fat for two slices of white bread, a lot of processed cheese, and way too much margarine. You can reinvent grilled cheese at home, with whole-wheat bread, cheese of your choosing, and plenty of add-ons that add flavor for few calories.

For under 500 calories, you can turn grilled cheese into a real meal!

The basics:
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1 teaspoon butter
1 ounce shredded cheese
=331 calories, 17 g fat, 13 g protein
Our favorite grilled cheese combos:
1/4 avocado
2 tablespoons sliced red onion
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
+ 84 calories, 7 g fat
3 slices tomato
1 tablespoon pesto
+ 82 calories, 6 g fat
2 slices cooked bacon, cut in half, excess fat blotted away
4 sauteed mushrooms
+ 78 calories, 6 g fat
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 pear or apple, sliced thinly
+ 46 calories, 0 g fat
3 ounces white-meat turkey
Handful arugula
1 tablespoon all-fruit spread
+ 133 calories, 1 g fat
1 poached or "fried" egg
1 slice bacon
+ 106 calories, 8 g fat

Some of our favorite recipes!
Coach Nicole's Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Grilled Cheese Pizza Sandwich
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Goat Cheese and Pesto
Grilled Deluxe Cheese Sandwich
What fills your favorite grilled cheese? Do you like grilled cheese with soup or on its own?

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  • 10
    My husband and I make Toasted Cheese sandwiches. We use specialty breads, like the La Brea Bakery Jalapeno Cheddar, or a black pepper sourdough. We lightly toast the bread, to give it body, while we are preparing the cheese. We use a mixture of cheddar and pepper jack and toast that open face under the broiler until it bubbles, not long. We don't have a toaster oven any more, but that was great. No butter on the outside, a less greasy feeling sandwich and a gourmet flavor. - 5/22/2012   10:29:10 AM
    These sound delicious. Going in the recipe box for sure! - 5/22/2012   10:21:33 AM
  • 8
    My last grilled cheese was just the other night! I tried the parkay spray butter for the first time and it did great as well. - 5/21/2012   8:49:50 PM
  • 7
    These recipes sound good cant wait to try one
    - 5/21/2012   8:01:44 PM
  • 6
    My favorite grilled cheese is one I encountered during a trip to San Francisco. Chop fresh tomatoes, and tear bacon into small bits. Add them to shredded cheese, and use Nature's Own 40 cal whole wheat bread. Add fresh basil for extra flavor. VERY yummy! You'll never go back to american singles again. - 5/21/2012   7:07:11 PM
  • 67YKCEB
    Thank you so much!!! I never thought of using shredded cheese! My body wont allow my to eat the processed cheese so it's be ages since I've had a grill cheese!! Now I can! - 5/21/2012   6:56:43 PM
  • 4
    In March, the Food Network Magazine had a little pull-out booklet with 50 grilled cheese recipes in it! My daughter and I did at least one per day during her whole Spring Break, it was such fun! They even have amazing breakfast ones! - 5/21/2012   5:07:35 PM
    I was thinking the other day about how I wanted a yummy grilled cheese!!! mmmmm this makes me so EXCITED!! Thanks! :) - 5/21/2012   4:40:05 PM
  • 2
    Your advice carries more cachet than mine, because I lost thirty pounds and you lost a hundred. But it's all the same: Healthily eat less and move more. I'm so glad for you success. Both of us are reaping the benefits of our lifestyle, and we have a burning desire to help others do the same. - 5/21/2012   3:21:19 PM
    YUM :) - 5/21/2012   2:55:00 PM

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